I have so many questions, how do I know God hears my prayers?

As a Pastor, I have received many questions through the years that had difficult answers to them. Many of these questions have to do with prayer. But these prayers from my own children when they were younger kind of stumped me. My son once prayed,  “Dear God, I went to a wedding and they were kissing right there in church. Is that OK?” That was a tough one for a little boy to reconcile. He also once prayed, “Dear God, thank You for the baby sister but what I prayed for was Lego’s! He wasn’t alone, however, my daughter once prayed,” “Dear God, are you actually invisible or is that just a trick?” But I guess my all-time favorite prayer from my daughter was, “Dear God, I want to be just like my daddy when I grow up but without so much hair all over my body!”

So, prayer can be a tricky thing. There are so many questions about it that make it a bit of a “murky” proposition. What if I pray for the wrong thing? What if I somehow am doing something that prohibits God from hearing me? Why would God listen to me when I don’t even know for certain what I should be praying for? Does God hear me if I am doubting His attention even while I am doing it?

The first thing to do when it comes to prayer is to “establish a baseline,” which is to say, create a starting point. What do we know about God’s perspective when we pray?  “I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” (Psalm 66:17-20, NIV). There are four quick things we learn about prayer from this important refrain. First, our prayers are personal. They arise from our own mouths. Second, prayers are personal worship and are pleasing to God. Third, God will never reject the innermost needs of our hearts. And fourth, God will never withhold His amazing love from us when we share what is really on our minds.

But, what about the individual praying? Is there some sort of spiritual disposition that makes a difference when we pray? Let me suggest some verses that speak to this important dilemma. “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will” (John 9:31, NIV). “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12, NIV). Now this is what you might call a “spiritual conundrum.” If all of us have sin in our lives, how can we ever expect to be heard while we are so colored by our own sin? But you need not worry. These verses, applied correctly, speak to the willful sin of an unrepentant heart. Said in a simpler way, the person who continues in willful evil will not be aided in this behavior by a Father who is somehow “fooled” by our intentions. God knows the condition of the heart.

The good news about prayer is that God “leans into” our requests, our concerns, our repentance, and our praises. “And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:15, NIV). “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13, NIV).

No, your prayers are no more “silly” than the thoughtful concerns of my children when they prayed. Our loving and gracious Father delights in your prayers, and Revelation teaches us that they even “smell good” to God, which is to say they are fragrant offering.

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